[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIFORNIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 7 00:02:09 CST 2005
They crossed paths long ago. Now Tookie is asking Arnie for mercy----Crips
founder will die on December 13 unless Governor Schwarzenegger grants him
One afternoon in the mid-1970s, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a keen
bodybuilder and the co-founder of the Crips gang, was walking along the
broadwalk at Venice Beach, Santa Monica, near Los Angeles. He passed the
then Mr Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was out for a stroll with a
friend. "See that guy there?" Mr Schwarzenegger said, pointing to
Williams' bulging muscles. "Those aren't arms, they're legs."
Now, more than a quarter of a century later, the paths of the man who
became a movie star and politician and the man who became a convicted
multiple murderer are about to cross again.
At 12.01am on December 13, Williams will be executed by lethal injection
for the murders of 4 people during 2 robberies committed more than a
quarter of a century ago. The only person who can spare him, should he
choose to exercise his power of clemency, is the governor of California,
Mr Schwarzenegger faces a tough choice, for Williams, 51, is a model of
jailhouse redemption. Although he has always maintained his innocence, he
has renounced his gang life and written children's books aimed at steering
them away from gangs. He has counselled gang members from behind bars,
been nominated 5 times for the Nobel peace prize, and his life story has
been made into a film starring Jamie Foxx.
"His status was legendary," said Najee Ali, a former gang member turned
community activist who served 2 years in prison. "He was the 1st ghetto
superstar. He's what we call a big homie. So many preachers, politicians
and law enforcement officers talk about stopping gang violence but they
don't have any experience of it. But when you have the founder of the most
well-known gang in history, it speaks a lot."
At the time of the crimes, Williams was a feared figure on the streets of
what was then known as South Central Los Angeles. As the co-founder of the
Crips, he carried a fearsome reputation for violence and the control he
exerted over the gang.
The crimes for which he was convicted were heinous. On February 28 1979,
said the prosecution at his trial, Williams and 2 other men robbed a 7-11
convenience store in Pico Rivera, east of Los Angeles. Williams took the
store assistant, 26-year-old father of 2 Albert Owens, into a cold room
and shot him twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. Williams got away with around
On March 11 1979, the prosecution alleged, Williams shot the owners of a
small motel in Los Angeles, Tsai-Shen Yang and her husband Yen-Yi Yang, as
well as their 43-year-old daughter Ye-Chen Lin, before stealing about
$100. At his trial in 1981, Williams was found guilty of the 4 murders and
given 4 death sentences.
But his conviction, Williams has argued, was unsafe. Forensic evidence was
never linked to him, he has said, and claims the prosecution relied on the
testimony of informants whose integrity was compromised. His lawyers have
also argued that jury selection was tainted: the prosecutor, Robert
Martin, dismissed the three African-Americans in the jury pool. The
prosecutor also compared Williams to a "Bengal tiger in captivity in a
Once inside prison, Williams continued his gang activity, behaviour that
brought him 6 1/2 years in solitary confinement. It was during this time,
he has said, that he began to see the error of his ways. In 1997, he wrote
an open apology for his gang activities, but not for the killings of which
he was convicted.
"I no longer participate in the so-called gangster lifestyle, and I deeply
regret that I ever did," he wrote. "I vow to spend the rest of my life
working toward solutions."
Those solutions included writing nine children's books aimed at preventing
young people joining gangs. He has published a memoir of his time in
prison and, last year, an autobiography titled Blue Rage, Black Redemption
(blue is the colour of the Crips gang).
In August this year Williams received a President's Call to Service Award
in recognition of his work with young people. The accompanying citation
from President George Bush noted that: "Through service to others, you
demonstrate the outstanding character of America and help strengthen our
country." Two months later, in October, the supreme court rejected his
final appeal without hearing it. After serving 24 years on death row in
San Quentin, Williams has exhausted the appeals process. Governor
Schwarzenegger is his only hope.
"Arnold is really caught in a bind," said author and political analyst
Earl Ofari Hutchinson. "He's up for re-election next year and he's not
going to win without iron-clad support from his conservative base. And
when you look at the climate, California is still a death penalty state. I
can't see a win-win for Arnold Schwarzenegger granting clemency to Tookie
Williams. It doesn't fly. Tookie Williams, to be brutally frank, is
In the two clemency appeals Mr Schwarzenegger has heard, he has ruled
against a reprieve. Williams has until tomorrow to file his request for
clemency. The LA district attorney's office, which brought the original
prosecution, has until November 17 to file a response, to which Williams'
legal team can respond by November 21. In a parallel move, other lawyers
representing Williams will present a "discovery motion" detailing new
evidence that was not heard at his trial and has only now been uncovered.
Williams' petition for clemency is not expected to address his guilt or
innocence. Instead, his lawyers are likely to focus on his rehabilitation.
"The governor will take all the facts that are submitted to him into
consideration and after consultation reach a decision," a spokeswoman for
Mr Schwarzenegger said.
His two previous decisions do not bode well for Williams. In rejecting
Donald Beardslee's appeal for clemency in January this year, Mr
"I am not moved to mercy by the fact that Beardslee has been a model
prisoner. I expect no less."
Williams' supporters wonder what sort of anti-rehabilitation message a
denial of clemency will send. Standing on the corner of West 43rd Street
in LA, a small group of them gathered last week. Zane Smith is a former
gang member and contemporary of Williams.
"Me and Tookie had our histories," he said. "But when they talked about
putting him to death, I had to put it aside. Tookie was never a killer. He
was a bodybuilder. Arnold Schwarzenegger was his hero."
California and capital punishment
1893 The 1st state execution takes place in California when Jose Gabriel
is hung at San Quentin prison
1941 Ethel Spinelli becomes the 1st woman to be executed in California
1967 Ronald Reagan, a Republican, becomes the only California governor to
1972 California supreme court declares capital punishment cruel and in
violation of the state constitution. Death row inmates are re-sentenced
1977 State re-enacts the death penalty
1992 Executions resume in California
January 19 2005 Donald Beardslee becomes the 1st prisoner to be executed
under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 11th since the reinstatement
of the death penalty
October 11 2005 The US supreme court rejects appeals from 3 convicted
murderers incarcerated in California. Stanley "Tookie" Williams is the
only one to have an execution date. The other 2 are expected to be given
dates in the next 3 months
December 13 2005 Williams is due to be executed by lethal injection
(source: The Guardian)
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